Alex Blaze

The loneliness of a healthy "I"

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 25, 2008 9:26 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, The Movement
Tags: subjectivity

I'm sick!

I don't know with what exactly. Flu? Cold? Strep throat? I have a bad taste in my mouth, a sore throat, a bad cough, the chills, and constant fatigue. I don't know what that recipe makes.

Ironically enough, in the country with the best health care in the world I avoided the simplest way to find out what it is - going to a doctor. The wonderful French health care system does have its bumps, this one being that you have to pay the doctor and you get reimbursed a month or two later. I decided to eat the last week of this month instead of heading out to a clinic.

So my illness has no pedigree, no history, no herstory, nothing to explain why it's making me feel this way and how to deal with it.

But that's not the only problem with the opening sentence to this post.

My job teaching English to little French kids involves lots of repetition. I was teaching twelve basic emotions right before Christmas - I'm sad, I'm angry, I'm happy - for about three weeks. I have 16 classes a week. I repeat each of the emotions about 7 or 8 times in each class, sometimes upwards of 50 times if we're having a problem with one. Do the math - it's enough to drive someone insane.

It carried itself into my vacation. My brother would ask, "Are you hungry?" to which I'd respond, "I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I'm tired, I'm surprised...." What are you doing, Alex? I don't know, but repeating those sounds altogether hundreds of times has made their meanings fade into each other! One can't be articulated anymore without the others!

It's a great activity to start the year with, mainly because if there's anything little kids are familiar with, it's their inner worlds. They might not be used to condensing, labeling, and speaking their emotions, but the joy of "I'm happy" tells them that we're pretty much the same in America as they are in France - we both take the complexity of the human experience, reduce it to a word, and then expect everyone to articulate these chaotic experiences the same way. A big, heteropatriachal security blanket.

So I get to a new school, and we're closing in on the new #12, the one that replaced "I'm scared" after I found out I couldn't draw "scared": I'm sick! These kids know a little English - they did this last year. We get to I'm sick, and what do they say? "I'm not very well." Only the "r" in "very" sounds like a "w".

No, I tell them. I'm sick! They repeat - it doesn't matter to them. They're just random sounds.

What is the difference between "sick" and "not very well"? Both get your point across, the latter feels more vague. Sick isn't enough - it has to be further broken down to be solved, put into more minute categories.

But why is the I in the beginning of that articulation? Why is it that the I restricts the feeling to one person and then the feeling is applied? What if we changed it around to "Sick am I" - making the experience of illness center stage, the person experiencing it secondary.

In that sense a more restrictive word than "sick" - flu, cold, scurvy, elephantiasis - doesn't change a feature of "I", but the nature of "I". "I" becomes a function of the illness, an incident in the illness's landscape as it travels among and between people through time.

It's a connecting thought for me, and completely true - if this disease is contagious, which it probably was, someone had it before me and felt the same way, and someone before that person, and so on. Is the person right before me someone who made the incidence of illness happen to me, making her a threat, or is she someone who hosted the same disease, making her the same as me in its microscopic world?

I don't know if knowing the specific malady would change anything here. It's a matter of whether that space between "I" and "They" is big or small, and not being able to pay a doctor makes that channel huge.

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Alex, honey, I think it's time to put down the cough syrup and go to the doctor. You're not making any sense! That was a little deep for this early in the AM.

I hope you feel better soon!

Yes, Alex...go see the doctor.

But it was an interesting post...

Get to feeling better soon, Alex! I'm with Serena and Ray with the "Go see the doctor!" chant.

Alex, it sounds like strep throat. Go to the doctor - NOW!

Thanks for your concerns, but the beginnings of this post were written several days ago. I'm fine now, just left with a small cough probably because it's so dry here in the winter.